Anna Nicole Smith and the Judges of Broward County
CONTRARIAN COMMENTARY FOR February 24, 2006
ANNA NICOLE SMITH AND THE JUDGES OF BROWARD COUNTY
AND THANK YOU FOR EXPOSING AMERICA’S JUDICIAL SYSTEM TO FLORIDA’S SUNLIGHT
UNFORTUNATELY, BROWARD COURTS ARE MORE LIKE, THAN UNLIKE, AMERICA’S OTHER JUDICIAL SYSTEMS; WE SHOULD NOT BE SMUG ABOUT FLORIDA’S COURTHOUSE CLOWNS SUCH AS LARRY SEIDLEN AND LARRY KORDA
(CHICAGO)(February 24, 2007) Florida is a wonderful place, especially when gleaming sunbeams bounce off high-rise buildings while northern cites are frozen solid. But the state is also an open-air insane asylum, with the inmates firmly in control.
Nowhere is the “asylum” aspect of Florida’s environment more obvious than in the circus tent officially labeled the “Broward County Courthouse.” Judge Larry Seidlen, one of the inmates, said last week his courtroom was not a “circus.” He was too modest. The entire Broward County Courthouse is a circus tent.
Viewers across America have been shocked this week to learn just how crazy Florida judges can be. Many of us have been transfixed by the unbelievable circus in the courtroom of Judge Seidlen. I confess, I watched.
Before unfortunate Anna Nicole could lie in state she has had to lie down for the lies people tell in Florida courts. Lie down in darkness.
Well, as is so often the case with major national newsbreaks, ContrarianCommentary.com’s executive editor, yours truly, was there first. Broward County Courthouse circus? Been there, done that.
I litigated cases in front of Larry Seidlen in the 90′s, as well as Larry (“Crazy”) Korda, another Anna Nicole inmate-judge. I would not trust these men with a grocery list, let alone a serious legal proceeding. And there they were, on national television this week, advertising how crazy justice can be in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
But is Anna Nicole’s case really that unique? Is what we watched a one-time freak show? Not at all.
Not really. In terms of the competence and incompetence of the judges, her case is both extraordinary and very ordinary.
Florida is unusual in that the state has an very open judicial system (for which, honestly, it should be commended and congratulated); TV cameras are routinely allowed in courtrooms and judicial chambers. The result is that we see more craziness than we do from courts in New York or Illinois, where the courtroom doors are firmly locked to avoid media access to judicial corruption and incompetence.
Judge Seidlen made an ass of himself. But then Broward judges are famous for making asses of themselves. In the 90′s I filed a complaint against Judge Paul (“Marko the Barbarian”) Marko, who told a woman in a divorce case she should cruise singles bars because the judge did the same. He accepted punishment from the Florida Supreme Court. Fortunately for litigants, Marko died an early death. He was the worst of the worst.
Seidlen and Korda continue to linger, along with a platoon of other weirdo judges in Broward County. On any given day these failed lawyers are meting out justice to the innocent citizens who have the misfortune to need a court. Most of the time the goofy judges labor in anonymity and, like the giant squid retrieved from the oceans, also last week, the system goes forward, quietly claiming its helpless victims. Every so often a celebrity case appears and then we see inside Florida’s circus courthouses. For real.
But is Florida really that different than New York, Illinois, or anywhere else? Not really. Political hacks and incompetent judges are everywhere.
Somewhere along the line in school most of us read about pre-revolutionary France, where people were jailed for stealing a loaf of bread (“Les Miserables”), or a similar Charles Dickensian era in England when people were sentenced to “transportation” and shipped to Australia for minor thefts. “Tut, tut,” we say, “That’s history.”
But this week, a man in Indiana, a helpless homeless man with mental illness, was released after spending 17 months in jail for stealing a bottle of soda from Wal-Mart. Authorities said he was “lost in the system.” Pretty sad.
If the truth be known America’s courts and courthouses are all pretty crazy places. Pretty sad.
While judicial egos continue to inflate, and judges, especially federal judges, demand and bigger and grander temples for their ministrations, the quality of justice steadily declines. Almost every week, somewhere in the United States an innocent man is released from jail after serving a lengthy jail sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. I stopped keeping count. There have been over a hundred men released from death row after being found innocent. In each case, justice and a series of judges failed.
And still Neanderthal conservatives cry for more punishment, more jails and tougher judges. Why don’t they ask for more competent judges? (Full disclosure: I’m a Republican, but not a Neanderthal.) Judicial incompetence is a nationwide problem, not only in Larry Seidlen’s courtroom.
In Florida, judges are elected, and usually elections turn on ethnic identity, not competence. In Illinois, judges are also elected; things are no better there. One judicial candidate, Frederick Rhine, changed his last name to O’Brien because he said Irish lawyers were disproportionately elected in Cook County (Illinois).
And in New York, the U. S. Supreme Court has just agreed to decide whether the state’s judicial elections are a sham and farce. Additionally, New York still allows plumbers and carpenters to serve as judges in “town justice” courts; somehow, legislators ignore that we are 200 years past the colonial era.
As long as Anna Nicole was healthy and had no need for judges, she was an entertaining floorshow in her own right. Then she died and the real three-ring circus began.
I have been watching and exposing corruption in the courts for almost forty years. So the Anna Nicole’s extravaganza is no surprise. None.
As a young law student, almost forty (40) years ago, I walked into the Champaign County, Illinois courthouse to fight corruption. An old couple had died, and a local judge and Urbana Mayor Stanley Weaver had looted their estate. My thanks: the local newspaper, the News-Gazette, attacked me for exposing corruption. The paper’s owner was friends with the judge and mayor. And so it goes. I went on to be a small part of a team that exposed two Illinois Supreme Court judges (Roy Solfisburg and Ray Klingbiel) for taking bank stock bribes. My reward? Attacks from the court for being disloyal to the judiciary. All this while I was still in law school.
In the 1970′s I lit the fuse that ignited Operation Greylord in Chicago. Over 80 judges and court personnel were convicted. Once again judges attacked me for exposing corruption. Courthouses are spooky places; they don’t like sunlight. Or honesty and integrity.
At one time in the 1980′s I had reversed close to a majority of the federal judges in Washington. I handled an appeal before then-Circuit Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On remand, the famous District Judge Gerhard Gesell was furious I had overturned him. But we still won.
I have also filed cases in New York, where one Judge Tomkins went home after work and beat his wife. Another, Joe (“Jose”)(“JoJo”) Cabranes, listened to cases in which his own divorce lawyer was representing clients. Real winners. So I have seen enough corruption in courthouses to fill a bushel basket.
Seen in context, Broward County justice is typical, not atypical. And so while Larry Seidlen, the self-styled “taxi driver from the Bronx” (what is it with taxi drivers?) made a fool of himself in court last week, Americans are fooling themselves if they think Seidlen and Korda are the only wacko incompetent judges in the United States. Our courthouses in every state are full of corrupt nincompoops such as Seidlen and Korda. Florida is among the worst in courthouse corruption and incompetence. But it is not alone. Far from it.
Thanks to my enemies at the Illinois Supreme Court I never did enter the private practice of law. I have devoted my life in the law to exposing corruption and incompetence in the judicial system and trying to improve our courts. And, in the words of Robert Frost, it has “made all the difference” to my life.
Anna Nicole. Rest in peace. Larry Seidlen: go back to driving a cab.
Chicago-based Internet journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of ContrarianCommentary.com. © Copyright Andy Martin 2007. Martin covers national and international politics with forty years of personal experience. Columns also posted at politicalgateway.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com. Comments? E-mail: AndyMart20@aol.com. Media contact: (866) 706-2639.